September 5, 2014

Facebook Status on Steroids

This blog post started off as a Facebook status and it took on a life of it’s own. So I decided to make it a blog post. I was due for one anyway. Not sure if it’s my best one but it definitely convicted the heck out of me. So here goes:

I think sometimes when God is working in our lives and revealing truth to us, our need for the affirmation of others will cause us to run from the secret place to share it with the world before it’s fully formed. Kind of like picking fruit before it’s ripened. The seed that was planted, springs up as a tender shoot and we pull it out and admire it and pass it around prematurely. But it never reaches it’s full potential. It never has a chance to develop, to mature in the secret place where no one sees it but it’s Creator. The anchoring roots of intimacy that are developed over time in that lonely, hidden place are bypassed for instant gratification. It may nourish a few, but it’s far-reaching potential is never realized. It is consumed in it’s infancy so it’s impact is limited. 
I’m not saying that sharing our revelations is wrong, don’t misunderstand. It's certainly valuable and usually beneficial. But our ‘public’ relationship with God should be just the tip of the iceberg. What’s below the surface, what is hidden from view, what is intimate and personal, should make up the bulk of it. If what is seen is larger than what is unseen, then we're out of balance. Somewhere down the line, we lost our first love and replaced it with a cheap substitute-the fleeting praise of man.

What is unseen will eventually impact what is seen.
It sort of reminds me of these reality shows. Where a film crew comes in and films a couple and they live a form of their lives for a watching world's entertainment. But sadly, all too often these very public relationships collapse when the cameras shut off.  What will remain when there's no more audience? Is it real enough to endure?

These are questions nobody can answer but us. I'm asking them to myself even as I write it in this public forum. I'm preaching to the choir here. I've been guilty of bounding away from the secret place before the Lord has had a chance to finish planting the seed deep within my soul and have shared with the world what I've yet to partake of myself. Yuck.
The bottom line is this: Relationships are eternal. Our ministry will pass away. What people think of us won’t matter one bit on that day. We'll stand before Him alone without the crowds and all that will matter is this: Did I really know Him for myself? Did He know me?

Keith and I aren't hesitant to express our appreciation for one another publicly or to share with others what we've learned from 30+ years of marriage. But who we are in public isn't all there is to us. The core of our relationship is derived in private, away from prying eyes. What the world sees of us is the result of that. It'd be pretty ridiculous if in our relationship, we were dependent on others' approval and opinions or if we needed a mediator in order to hear from or to understand one another. So why do we think it's that way with the Lord? After all, we were made for relationship because He made us like Himself. It was all His idea. And all of ministry, all other relationships, all fruit, flow organically from that secret spring of intimacy. Personal relationship is the source and it is also the goal. 

And once again, I'm back to my all-time favorite verse which I could quote in a coma and which causes my children to roll their eyes and say, "We know Mom. We know." ;)

“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (relationship). And all these things shall be added unto you.”
I’ll close with this pithy thought I had not long ago. It is this:
'Don't pursue your purpose. Don't pursue your destiny. Don't pursue your ministry. Don't pursue your dreams. But rather, pursue God. And on that path of pursuing Him, you will run into your purpose, you will run into your destiny, you will run into your ministry and you will run into your dreams.'

Seek first...the secret place. Seek first... Relationship. Seek first... Him!
And all these other things, will naturally fall into place.
The End. 

(Can you imagine if this had truly been a Facebook status? Jeez!)

July 3, 2014


 I’m convinced that probably 95% of our struggles originate from a lack of trusting God. Of course I cannot prove this and all I can go on is my own life experience and what I’ve observed from people I have encountered.  But this seems to be the common thread and I’m pretty certain that I’m right about this.

You’d think after a lifetime of seeing God provide, protect, touch, bless and guide my life that I’d trust Him. But it’s when the storms hit that you really find out what your faith is made of.  We’ve all heard it said that when you go through hard times you find out who your real friends are. Well there’s just nothing that tests a relationship like trouble. There was one particular time when my relationship with God was tested like never before when I walked through a storm that pulled the rug out from under me and left me hurt and angry for a long, long time. I did everything I knew to do and that had worked before- forgive, seek God, repent, pray, fast, repeat… But nothing got better and for the first time ever, I feared for my faith and God didn’t seem to be helping the situation with His silence and seeming distance. I was confused and depressed. I felt my heart growing away but God didn’t seem to be doing one thing to stop it.  I wrote this to Him one day:

So what's wrong God? It must be with me. But I'm trying. It's not like I don’t care. I really want to be close to You. Since You're invisible I can't exactly rely on my natural senses to see, hear and touch You. I have to rely on my spirit to see and hear You. So is my spirit shut down? Has it been so damaged by all this that it's just gone into hibernation? Is my body just going through the motions of Christianity while my spirit takes a break and tries to heal? I just don’t know.

I just didn’t know. I realize not everyone will relate to this or see the significance of my doubt; especially if you weren’t raised in church or are new to the whole Christianity thing . But from one who was in church as soon as my mom was released from the maternity ward, I can say-I know this stuff.  Or so I thought. I’ve predominantly and sincerely done the Christian thing the majority of my life except for a few years in my teens when I backslid. And when I did finally return to God, I set my face towards Him and I never looked back. That was almost 30 years ago.  Life hasn’t been easy, don’t get me wrong. We’ve had our share of struggles and failures. But I can honestly say, I’ve not once doubted that I’d stick it out- until this particular storm.

It’s funny the things that break each of us; the particular trigger-point that will, in one moment, set in motion the destruction of the fortress within that took a lifetime to build. What might be the undoing of me probably wouldn’t faze you and vice versa. But this particular trial did a number on me. I didn’t know what I could trust anymore. Because for the first time, the stuff I’d always known didn’t seem to be working.

Now if I’d been counseling someone in my situation I know I would have asked them- “Have you forgiven? Are you spending time with the Lord? Have you thought about fasting? Are you in the Word? Are you spending time in praise and worship?” And those are all very good questions and good counsel. I’d have probably prayed with them and more than likely I would have told them to hang in there (and would have undoubtedly quoted-“having done all, stand!”). I’d have exhorted them to trust, reassured them of God’s love, and I would have shared that discouragement is one of the enemy’s biggest weapons. I’d have told them to guard their minds and to speak words of life. Again- these are all the truth.  (See I told you. I know this stuff. )

But not gonna lie- if someone had tried that with me then, I’d have probably punched them in the throat. I could have written a book I knew this stuff so well- yet there I was, knowing all that, and still depressed and disillusioned.

But it’s here I discovered something I don’t think I could have learned any other way- for truth to do us any good, sometimes we have to walk through the fire to get it. It can’t be second-hand information, even handed down from trusted people. It has to be our own or it has no real power for us. I’m not suggesting that we stop speaking truth to others (for fear of being throat punched) or from listening to truth when we'd rather roll our eyes. For 'one sows, one waters but only God gives the increase'. Even a half-hearted seed can change a life…But there are just some things that can only be learned through experience; especially if you’ve heard it all before.

During this storm I kept praying, I kept fasting, I kept forgiving and I kept reading the word.  One day when I was having a cosmic meltdown at the kitchen table my husband spoke words that finally penetrated my “heard it all” heart. It was simple but he said- “Honey, this is a trial. The Bible talked about this. Right now you are like that tree on the riverbank the Bible talks about. It’s a drought and you aren’t getting water in the usual way. Your roots are having to go deep to find the water.  You may not feel very spiritual or close to God right now but you haven’t left and neither has He. You’re still seeking Him. You haven’t quit. Not quitting IS winning. It won’t always be like this. Its building strength.” And I promise I didn’t punch him. I guess I was ready to hear it then. Maybe, just maybe during all those dry boring prayer times God HAD heard me. Maybe just maybe, He would bring good from this storm I was in. Now I don’t for a second think God created the storm. Never once in the Bible do you hear Jesus causing a storm. Rather, He always quieted the storms He encountered. But He CAN and He DOES bring good out of the worst things. Just as storms can test relationships, I found that they can also strengthen them.

There came a moment where the Lord clearly showed me that I had a trust issue. I needed to put it all into His hands and to let it go. (Cue the Frozen soundtrack). Sounds like an anticlimactic revelation but it was exactly what I needed to hear. I’m used to fixing things and I couldn’t fix this.  There was a moment when that reality sunk in and I’d never felt more helpless. But then the revelation came that helpless isn’t hopeless. Helpless is saying- I cannot help this situation. I cannot even help myself. I have to let it go. I had to trust God to handle what I could not control. Like what was I thinking anyway? That I could do a better job than Him? As easy as it may sound, really letting go and putting it into His hands was one of the hardest things I'd ever had to do.

I found that forgiveness also involved trust- trusting that God had a plan and nothing or no one was going to thwart that. I’m reminded of Joseph in the Bible. His brothers betrayed him and tried to remove him from his place of favor and influence and in their efforts to harm him and his destiny they actually placed him in a position to be of much greater influence than even Joseph himself could have imagined. We know the end of the story. But when Joseph was in the middle of this trial, he didn't. Yet while in prison, during his storm, he trusted that God still was in control and God had his future in His hands and that He alone was responsible for bringing it to pass. His brothers couldn’t stop God’s plan. Nothing could stand in God’s way. So when the time came Joseph was able to forgive them. They hadn’t harmed him, they had actually helped him. Forgiveness is saying, on the unresolved side of the story, 'God they did me wrong, and it looks like they ruined everything, but I am trusting You to not only bring me through this but to still fulfill Your promise in a greater way because of it. ' Only trust can say something like that.

Its an obvious fact that if we don’t stop but keep going, at some point we won’t be where we were but we’ll end up somewhere else. At the risk of sounding formulaic (that really is a word. Look it up) I kept seeking, kept asking, sometimes just going through the motions and kept at it until I walked myself out of the valley I was in.

And here’s the other side of the coin of this tale- Just as I believe probably 95% of our problems come through not trusting God  (disclaimer: these percentages are not scientifically verified). I also believe that the solution to 95% of our problems is a revelation encounter with the love of God.  Think about it- if we know God loves us… okay lets stop a moment…. God… GOD…. The Uncreated One who created uh me and uh this earth and uh the universe etc etc LOVES me. Loves ME! Can we pause and take that in for a moment? Can you not see how the revelation of that should make us the most secure people in the entire universe? And since most issues we face involve things like insecurity, doubt, confusion, depression, fear and shame… would any of that remain if we truly trusted God? How can we not trust someone who loves us? Loves us so much to send His only Son who He really really likes a whole lot to die in our place? No matter how awesome I think you are, I sure wouldn’t give up any of my children for you. Sorry. And you wouldn’t for me either. Yet I would lay down my life for my children. Why? Because I love them more than anything. More than my own life. And that’s what God did. I don’t understand all the reasons behind why Jesus had to die but I do know that it means He loves us a lot. Wow. That’s a whole heck of a lotta love. And the revelation of that life-changing love is the solution to everything.

Now there have been seasons where God was as close as my thoughts and I felt His presence and pleasure all day long. But just like in the natural, weather patterns change and sometimes storms come. It doesn’t mean God sent them our way. But they do come. It’s inevitable. God DOES NOT change but the storms we go through can alter the landscape in us. Like after a tornado passes through an area we may find that the terrain has become unrecognizable. The old familiar paths have been washed away. Some of those paths needed washing away. Others probably didn't and will need to be rebuilt. After this storm passed through me I felt like I found myself at ground zero of my faith. It was bare bones but it was finally real and honest. Nobody looking, no religion, just me and God were left. And now I know that God hadn’t gone anywhere. I guess it's not really faith if we only believe when we see and understand. Its those roots, stretching deeper than they'd ever been required before to go to find that water and becoming more grounded and secure as a result.

Before this storm blew through and dislodged so many things, there was a lot that I thought I knew that I realize now I really didn't know at all. But when the dust settled there remained some things I found that I did know and I DO know.  I know that He is true, I know that He is God and I know that I am His. I still believe His ways are right and best and for my good, even when it doesn't make sense.  And although I may not always follow or understand, I DO know that He loves me and HE IS totally, truly and completely good.  And there will be moments in our lives when that’s the only star left in the sky to navigate from. But I believe that’s enough and in time it will lead us home.

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders 
 Let me walk upon the waters 
 Wherever You would call me 
 Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander 
 And my faith will be made stronger 
 In the presence of my Savior"

February 4, 2014

The Big Deal

 1 Cor. 13:2 "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and have all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."

Spiritual gifts, doctrine and faith, although necessary and valuable, are deemed meaningless if they are devoid of love. Is it possible to know the Word, be theologically correct but still be terribly wrong because of a lack of love? I think this scripture pretty much answers that question. This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately.
 I wrote this status on Facebook a couple of weeks ago that seemed to really strike a chord with a lot of people.
I really hate religion but I love Jesus. If the Church has hurt you please don't equate that with Jesus. This may surprise you but Jesus isn't religious. As a matter of fact it was the religious that were the most offended by Him. Jesus did proclaim certain principles and truths that the religious also proclaim. But religion tells you that to connect with the Person you have to do the principles. Where Jesus says to come to Him as you are and He will teach you. Jesus values you. Religion doesn't. Religion says "Do better!" And Jesus says "Believe in Me". Religion rejects you if you don't agree with its theology, it's emphasis on a particular truth. Just look at how the church is divided into so many different denominations. But unlike religion, Jesus doesn't reject or forsake. He says 'I AM the Truth'. The law came through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Truth isn't a doctrine. Truth is a Person. That Person is love. And He wants us more than we want Him. He is so beautiful.

There’s a quote I’ve heard for some time that says “People don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care”. To me, that says a mouthful. In the past, in my pursuit for uncompromising truth I was often guilty of taking a Biblical stand, full of my sense of ‘rightness’ but without a smidge of love or compassion in my heart toward those who believed differently.  Now don’t get me wrong, pursuing truth is wisdom and digging into the Word of God is exactly what we need to do. I’m definitely not advocating a soft Gospel or a departure from the Word. But what I am now seeing is this: If gaining Biblical knowledge doesn’t eventually lead us to greater love but rather causes us to separate ourselves from those who believe differently, then we are missing the greater purpose of truth.
“But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” I Cor 8:1b
Knowledge itself isn’t bad. We are commanded to walk in truth. But we know our knowledge has become puffed up when someone’s beliefs become more important to us than the person themselves. Ouch.

Jesus definitely preached righteousness but if you look into it, the majority of who He was preaching to was the church people. They are the ones who got Him riled up. But He ate with prostitutes and thieves. As far as we know He didn’t point out their sin to them when He was with them. He could’ve I suppose but it’s not recorded. I imagine there probably were some lively conversations around those tables that we aren't privy to. But what we do know is this: whatever took place there, changed them.
One example of this is when Jesus up and invited Himself over to the notorious crook Zacchaeus’ house for dinner. By the time the meal was over old Zack was a changed man, giving half his wealth to the poor and paying back those he’d stolen from four times over. Notice that Jesus didn’t first ask Z if he was keeping the law or what his stand was on certain issues before dining with him. He didn’t take him aside and tell him all he was doing wrong (and there was plenty He could have pointed out) before entering his home. But rather, the holy King, the Uncreated Creator of the universe just hung out with this flawed man on his own turf and it was that uncondemning love that changed his heart that day.

The words Jesus spoke to the woman caught in the act of adultery are also telling-
“Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Notice the order of His words. He didn’t say-“Go and sin no more and THEN I won’t condemn you.” No, His unconditional love came first. Her encounter with His forgiveness, despite her sin, made the second part of that sentence possible for her. ‘Go and sin no more’.  It’s His grace that empowers us to say no to sin. It's His kindness that leads to repentance. No she didn’t deserve it and neither do we. But He gives it to us anyway. It doesn’t make sense. But He is good like that. And He wants us to likewise have grace for people. It doesn’t mean ignoring sin. He wasn’t ignorant of Zacchaeus’ or the adulterous woman’s sin. He was well aware of it.  But their sin didn’t keep Him away.

Our country is awash with immorality. I get that. The church is called to be salt and light. I get that too. I understand the frustration that in a culture where ‘anything goes’, Christians aren’t allowed the same freedoms of expression. But what do we expect? The Bible was pretty clear that it was going to get worse for us as the time draws near for Christ’s return. That’s no big shocker. Do we keep speaking truth, studying and declaring the Word and living morally regardless? Yes we do. But in our stand for truth we must ask ourselves, how much of our ‘stand’ is based on love? Because I can promise you, God doesn’t see issues. God sees people. It's the whole point and a pretty big deal. And I think a big part of the church is missing that point.  I’ve missed it too often myself with my moral outrage, my love of doctrine more than people and some of my past indignant posts on this same blog. But guess what? God doesn’t need me to defend Him. He’s not up there with His feelings hurt hoping His children will stand up for Him. He’s GOD for heaven’s sake. But what He does want from me is love.
If I can fathom all mysteries and knowledge... but have not love...I am nothing." 

Jesus said that the world will know we belong to Him by our love and sadly the Church has often gotten a bad rap because too many in the church in their righteous stands have rejected former friends and family members because of their differing doctrinal, personal and political views. That's just not the heart of Christ. Here's a good quote:  "A true friend is someone you can disagree with and still remain friends. For if not, they weren't true friends in the first place." 
Author: unknown

Sadly, we Christians are notorious for shooting our wounded. I recently read an article that a former well-known minister who embarrassingly fell into sin wrote. He told about his wanting to commit suicide at the time of his very public fall. He said that it wasn’t his sin that made him want to die, but rather the words spoken to him by his fellow ‘brothers’ in Christ. This breaks my heart.

I'm really not trying to bash the church here in this post. There are so many ministries out there that ARE reaching scores of people through sacrificial love. I think of Heidi Baker's ministry whose main message is love, love love. Scores of children are being rescued and people healed and saved all from a message of love. I've never even heard what Heidi's doctrinal views are on things but I have heard about her love and the people who have been changed by it. Heidi has said, ‎”Yes, God wants you to do signs and wonders. But the love of God manifested through you is what people really need. So you first must see His face. You must become so close to His very heartbeat that you can feel what others feel...It’s not complicated. Just love the one in front of you.” I am so thankful that there are many ministries in the Body of Christ like hers who get it.

Truth is very important and it does need to be accurately taught. But if we can’t speak the truth IN LOVE, we really just need to keep our mouths shut. Been there. Done that. I thank God for the Blood of Jesus and that His mercies are new every morning. Most people recognize where they've screwed up so when truth is delivered without love it leaves them feeling rejected, wounded, shamed and confused. I recently heard a hurting Christian who was judged and then abandoned by other Christians say that they felt more loved by their unsaved friends than by the Church. I've heard of Christians encouraged by their leaders to stay away from other Christians whose doctrinal views were different. Really? How is that going to help anyone? Isn't helping them the point? That is so sad. I'm not saying that every Christian is this way but I'm seeing way too much of it in the western church. I've seen way too much of it in my own life.
People who are in sin are hurting. They aren't lepers that we must separate ourselves from as if we might 'catch' something from them. They don't give a hoot about our doctrine. They need to see Jesus. And Jesus is Love. The world doesn't need to see the Church bashing other ministries who believe differently. That's not going to draw anyone to Christ. Only the Lord knows another's heart. Even if they are off on this or that point, I can pretty much bet that we're off on some points too. People need to see Jesus. And Jesus is Love.
"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
 I want to end with this. Paul, after concluding his teaching on the importance of the various powerful spiritual gifts for the Church in 1 Cor 12 made this profound transition into his teaching on love- “But now...Let me show you a more excellent way”. 

The more excellent way.
It’s a pretty big deal.

1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three will remain forever: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these… is love.